(click to enlarge photos)
To those who do not live in West Seattle, the “parts” that best represent it are, I imagine, a trio of large landmarks: Duwamish Head, Alki Point, and Lincoln Park. We might make it a quartet by adding Schmitz Park, although I doubt that many residents of Laurelhurst, Wallingford or Ballard have ever ventured into its virgin wilds. These four destinations are, of course, very familiar to West
Seattleites, but I will further speculate that it is none of the four but rather the Junction that best represents the heart and soul of West Seattle, the grand peninsula at the southwest corner of Elliott Bay. It is the Junction, extending in every direction from the intersection of SW Alaska Street and California Ave. SW, that is the best-loved corner in that corner.
Here – in the featured photo at the top – is the Junction on September 23, 1941. With its low-rise profile and small-shop milieu, Jean Sherrard’s repeat is similar to the neighborhood recorded two months and two weeks before the United States entered the Second World War. At that time a photographer on assignment for the Foster and Kleiser billboard company was working to promote the Junction neighborhood as a fine place to advertise. Note the sign on the roof left-of-center – and in the other company signs collected here. The photographer has aimed his or her camera north on California from midway between SW Edmunds Street and SW Alaska Street. The four shining and parallel lines marking the pavement at the scene’s center are the surviving remnants of the Junction’s creation in 1907. That year the Fauntleroy and West Seattle electric streetcar lines first converged: a junction. It also was the year of West Seattle’s convergence with, or annexation into, Seattle.
Because of its connections, the Junction soon grew into West Seattle’s commercial center. William (known as W.T.) Campbell, a skilled real-estate boomer, was largely responsible for the Junction’s rising above the sometimes wetland (it began, in places, as a swamp). And it was Campbell who built the two two-story brick buildings that still hold half of the intersection: the Campbell Building (1918) at the northeast corner and the Hamm Building (1926) at the northwest corner. It is these two ornate landmarks that one of the city’s most energetic heritage groups, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, is nominating as worthy of preservation with a project it has named “We Love the Junction.”
Why? Clay Eals, the group’s executive director, explains, “We know that none of us will live forever. But landmarking the unique structures that for the past century have created an attractive and vibrant center for connection and collaboration, for friendly commerce, for appreciation of the visionaries who came before us, for the inexpressible sense of home, and for affirmation of our humanity – this is the stuff of identity, of legacy and of hope.” We will add that a visit to loghousemuseum.info, the group’s website, will reveal with moving splendor this heritage group’s good works, including those of “We Love the Junction.”
Anything to add, mes amis? Yes Jean, Ron has returned to the blog a few of its more recent neighborhood insertions. While was have quite a stack of ancient features that we might have lifted here, we will not for want of time, which must be given to our next contribution to the Times, also a West Seattle feature – one from Alki Point. For coda we will now slip in a poem on California Street, which seems – to me – to date from about 1940. I confess that I do not remember where I picked it up. Perhaps a reader will know and enlighten us all.
For “SO SHORT A TIME” a CALIFORNIA AVENUE CLOCK – Courtesy, Southwest Seattle Historical Society